Simple Changes: Organizing My Dirty Dishes

Yes you read the title correctly! ¬†And yes, I’m probably insane! ūüôā ¬†But this is a change that really is helping me be a little more motivated to tackle the continual mess in my kitchen.

A few years ago, when I was washing dishes with a friend of mine, she told me a story about someone organizing her dirty dishes for her. ¬†A man and his wife were dinner-guests in her home, and afterwards they helped her with the clean-up. ¬†The man told her that he was an “expert dish organizer” and proceeded to stack all of her dirty dishes together according to type and size. ¬†I asked, “did it help?” and she said that it did; however she also said that she didn’t usually take the time herself to do it. ¬†At the time of this conversation I was intrigued by the idea, but also never took the time to do it.

But recently my kitchen has been a disaster zone pretty much all the time! ¬†As soon as I finally get everything cleaned up, it is practically time to prepare another meal. ¬†And if I’m unable to do them right after a meal for some reason (or if I’m being rebellious¬†and simply don’t!) then they really pile up in a hurry.

So, a few of weeks ago when I was feeling very overwhelmed at the mess, I decided to organize them. ¬†I pulled everything out of the sink and started stacking like-dishes together. ¬†Then I gathered everything that had been left on the table, stove, and the other counter and stacked them with everything else. ¬†After that I wiped all of the now-cleared counters and stove off and swept the floor. ¬†So, all I had to do was the dishes. ¬†I simply picked up one pile at a time and rinsed them, then loaded them into the dishwasher (yes, I’m a “rinse the dishes before loading” person!). ¬†It was great because I could look at my dishwasher to see what space I had there and then decide “I’m going to load the plates next, or the cups, or whatever.” ¬†When I ran out of room, I switched to washing things that I usually hand-wash, and actually just left the other “dishwasher dishes” for later once this load was done.

It wasn’t faster, but it felt less stressful to me. ¬†And so I’ve started doing this more regularly. ¬†I’ve even been trying to teach my kids that instead of putting their dishes in the sink to go ahead and stack them neatly on the counter. ¬†So, now I don’t feel so overwhelmed when I look at the mess (even if it does get big)! ¬†If I’m in a hurry, I can do a quick cleanup of the table, stove, clear counter space, and sweep the floor. ¬†Then later when I return, instead of being greeted by an entire kitchen to clean, I know I just need to start rinsing and loading a few dishes.

I was talking with my sister a couple of days ago about routines and systems. ¬†I said something along the lines of “finding a system that would work.” ¬†Her response was that most house-cleaning systems will work if we follow them. ¬†The hard part is finding one that you like enough to actually follow. ¬†I thought this was insightful. ¬†And so I have to say that this system of organizing my dirty dishes is “working” because I like it.

What system works best for you for keeping up with dishes?  


The What, Why, and How of Improving My Family’s Eating Habits

The excitement over my new book about helping picky eaters has definitely worn off. ¬†Now that I have read it 100% and re-read certain parts, the reality of the work and effort that will be required to improve my family’s eating habits is sinking in. ¬†*Sigh*

My son made a statement the other night that really made me think. ¬†He has read a little of the book, and was asking me a question about it. ¬†As I explained my answer, I asked him if he was agreeing with what I was saying. ¬†His response was, “I guess so…but I still don’t understand why I need to change.” ¬†He wasn’t saying this to complain or be defiant; he was simply speaking the truth. ¬†I explained it the best that I could to him, but I’ve been thinking a lot about his statement, and have been challenging myself to clarify not only the “why” ¬†but also the “what” and the “how” in my own mind.

So of course I wanted to share! ūüôā

What I am trying to change:

Basically I want our family to eat closer to the USDA recommended amounts for each food group.  I was able to look up the daily recommendations for each one of my kids here.  (Please note that these numbers are for my own kids based on their height and weight.  It may be slightly different for other children even if they are the same age.)

Serving sizes

To put it a little more simply, I am hoping to increase my kids’ consumption (and variety) of fruits and vegetables, and also healthy foods like salmon. ¬†I would also like to decrease their consumption of refined grains, highly processed grains (i.e. sugary cereal), and junk food.

Why I am trying to change this:

This is where I answer my son’s question. ¬†I guess the most obvious answer is for good health. ¬†But I actually get a little bit of push-back from my family members when I site this as the only reason, because we have all been very blessed to be pretty healthy over the years.

But I have other reasons too. ¬†For one thing,¬†I see it as an investment in my children’s future. ¬†When I left home after High School, I knew how to cook some basic things, and I could follow a recipe pretty well. ¬†But looking back, I didn’t really know how to put together very many simple, healthy meals other than a sandwich and some fruit to go with it. ¬†I was pretty picky too, and so when I shopped, I passed by a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables and instead bought the canned and packaged stuff. ¬†It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I understand the basics, but now that I do, I can teach this information to my kids. ¬†Of course, it will be their choice as to how they use what they know, but at least they will know it.

I also think that even though we all seem healthy, I personally can tell a difference in how I feel when I eat junk verses the good stuff.  If I can get more of the good stuff into my kids, I think they will notice it too, and then want to eat more of it based on that.  I have a friend that told me once that to her it is like fuel for a car.  The better quality fuel you use, the better the car will run.  Our bodies are like that too.

Another reason is that it will relieve a lot of stress and guilt that I feel. ¬†When I serve meals that I know are not good, I always feel guilty. ¬†But I just tell myself that it’s better than nothing, or that I’ll do better later, or I just push that feeling away. ¬†But I know that on the days I eat well, not only do I feel better physically, but I feel better emotionally because there is no guilt. ¬†Feelings of guilt can really weigh a person down!

And finally, I just simply value taking care of my body and my children. ¬†Our bodies are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father, and taking care of them is a good way to say “thank you” for that gift! ¬†My kids are also a gift from Him, and teaching them take care of themselves shows that I value them too.

How I am planning to change:

I think that simple changes are the way to go. ¬†I’ve already tried to implement several of the things I’ve learned from Dr. Kennedy’s book, but I’m having trouble being consistent. ¬†This has caused me to feel a bit overwhelmed. ¬†So I’m taking a step back and am planning to implement just a little bit at a time. ¬†The current plan is to work on each meal individually, starting with breakfast. ¬†Every meal brings it’s own unique set of dynamics and challenges to making it healthy, so that’s why I’m choosing to approach it this way.

What reasons do you have for healthy choices (or changes) you’ve made in your life?

Help for {the Mom of} the Picky Eater

There has been a certain amount of buzz at my house, surrounding a book that I brought home from the library the other day. ¬†It was laying on the floor next to me as I read my girls stories the other night. ¬†When we finished, my older daughter and I both reached for it at the same time! ¬†I told her selfishly that, “I get to read it first, then you can look at it,” to which she responded, “but I really want to look at it now!”

Later, after the dishes were (mostly) done, and my youngest was (mostly) settled into bed, I grabbed my book, and settled into our most comfortable chair to read. ¬†But what did I find? ¬†Someone was peering over my shoulder, trying to read it too! ¬†It was my son – I was patient with his “over-the-shoulder” reading for about one minute, then I shooed him away. ¬†But just as I did, in popped my daughter again, trying to get a look at this book!

I know you are dying to know what this amazing book is that everyone at my house is so anxious to read!! ¬†You are probably thinking that if it’s generating this much excitement you’ll just have to rush out and get a copy for your own young readers (ahem, and yourself)! ¬†But if you are thinking this, you should know that the excitement for the young ones is short-lived. ¬†They really don’t want to read it; they just want to look at a few pages so that they can know what I’m up to. ¬†Because, you see – this book is about helping parents feed their picky eaters. ¬†And who are the picky eaters in my household?? ¬†You guessed it! ¬†The two that were trying so hard to read my book! ¬†(Along the youngest one who was {mostly} settled into bed).

Their intense interest stemmed from the realization of what my reading this book could mean for them. ¬†My daughter said, “What is it, a book about how to get us to eat yucky food?” and later she asked, “What does it say, eat tomatoes 500x’s and then you will like them?” and then to be extra funny, she added, “and give a marshmallow after each one?” ¬†My son, on the other hand was more interested in seeing my answers to the quiz questions that are in the book. ¬†He wanted to know what I was saying about him!

So, no – don’t rush out and buy this book expecting your young ones to sit down and read it. ¬†But I have to say that I’m pretty excited about it for myself. ¬†The “picky-eater” situation has been by far one of the most emotional struggles that I’ve had as a parent. ¬†I feel like I’m a decent cook, and make pretty good food, but to have people sit down to dinner night after night with anxiety and stress about being asked to eat it is so frustrating for me!! ¬†I’ve been trying (and have made some good progress) to help them eat more variety. ¬†But we are far from where I feel we need to be.

Since I just barely brought the book home, all I’ve been able to do so far is read about 3/4 of it…I haven’t actually tried anything that the author is suggesting. ¬†But I have to say that I love what I’m reading. ¬†The stuff this author is saying matches perfectly with my own way of thinking about both food and parenting. ¬†But she has been able to take those beliefs and put them into a concrete system of rules and consequences combined with an understanding of the child’s needs, that I think will work! ¬†With all the research I’ve done on eating healthy and helping the picky eater, this is the first time I’ve read anything that I think will actually help me! ¬†I’m so excited.

And, I plan to keep everyone posted. ¬†Even if I decide it’s not helpful after all, I’ll definitely let everyone know. ¬†I’ll most likely include this in my “simple changes” series that I’ve been writing, because the author recommends making the changes slowly as to not overwhelm everyone. ¬†She even uses the phrase! ¬†On pg. 92 she says, “You and your family can focus on making one simple change a month to turn everyone’s unhealthy eating habits around slowly and without drama.

So, what’s the name of this very awesome book? ¬†It is called, “The Picky Eating Solution” by Deborah Kennedy, Ph.D. ¬†She also has a website which I honestly have not looked at, but thought I would mention. ¬†As a side note, I have not received any compensation for telling about her book or website, and as I said before I cannot at this point vouch for the effectiveness of her methods. ¬†But I am super excited to try out her rules and other suggestions to see if they help my family!

Simple Changes: Get a Load of Laundry Ready at Night

This is Part Two of my “simple changes” series. ¬†Last week I wrote about how I started exercising in the morning. ¬†Shortly after putting that in place I read a blog post on¬†which triggered the idea of getting a load of laundry in the washing machine at night, but waiting until the morning to actually start it. ¬†I never thought of this before! ¬†It’s a very small detail, but I realized as soon as I read her post that it could be the perfect laundry solution for me.

I have tried so many different laundry routines over the years. ¬†When I first got married, I was working full time so I did all (two or three loads) of our laundry at once in the laundry room of our apartments on Saturdays. ¬†Later, after moving into a house and starting our family, I set up Monday as “Laundry Day.” ¬†With each child the laundry grew, but I was still able to get it mostly done in that one day.

For some reason after moving into the house that we live in now, “Monday Laundry Day” completely fell apart. ¬†I’m not sure if it’s because I lost my laundry room (it wasn’t perfect because we had to walk through it to go out our back door, but at least it was a room rather than a closet like I have now) or, if it’s just because my kids were growing and we were generating more clothes that needed to be washed. ¬†I really don’t know. ¬†But ever since we have lived here I have been completely unsuccessful at completing the laundry all in one day.

So, after accepting the fact that I needed to change the system, I started doing a load every day. ¬†It was very similar to what I’m doing now, except that I was gathering the laundry and loading the washer in the morning. ¬†It worked OK, but the problem was, that unless I woke up earlier, I could not start until after everyone had left the house. ¬†This made it pretty late in the morning when the laundry was ready to be put away, and often at that point I had already moved onto other things, which led to me waiting until later to put it away. ¬†And, once it gets put off for a little while, it is amazing how easy it is to put it off even more! ūüôā

After that I decided that I would do it in the early afternoon/evening. ¬†The idea was that I would fold it while watching the news with my husband. ¬†I really thought this would be great, but it wasn’t. ¬†I was good about getting it into the washer, but pulling it out was just too difficult with everything else going on at that time of day.

My new plan combines the best of both of these ideas.  I can gather it and load it anytime in the evening that seems right; then I can start the washer as soon as I wake up rather than waiting until everyone leaves.  This means my laundry is ready to put away an entire hour earlier making it possible to get it done before I have to start doing too many other things.

The best part is that it’s a forgiving system. ¬†Laundry is like the dishes in that I can only procrastinate so long before it becomes a crisis. ¬†So, even if I get behind (due to being super-busy, or super-tired, or just plain rebellious), I will spend the time necessary to catch up. ¬†But the advantage of having a working system is that by pushing it to the ends of the day I free my precious day-time hours up for other things that I need/want to do.

Here is how my morning looks currently with my 2 “simple changes” that I’ve made so far. ¬†Of course, it’s not perfect every day, but this is the general idea:

  • Wake up
  • Push “start” on washing machine
  • Wake up kids, fix breakfast, pack lunches, family prayer, etc.
  • Say goodbye to my family
  • Change laundry from washer to dryer
  • Eat a light snack (not too much since I’m exercising)
  • Exercise
  • Shower/get dressed
  • Eat breakfast (occasionally I’ll eat before showering instead of after)
  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Now I’m ready for the day!

What is your preferred system for doing the laundry?


Simple Changes: Exercise First Thing in the Morning

Recently I have been making very simple changes in the way I approach my day. ¬†I haven’t been actively trying to do this, but the time just seems to be right for it. ¬†First I discovered one thing I could do differently, then another and another. ¬†I feel like I’m on a role! ¬†Yea! ¬†The original plan was to write one post briefly describing them all; but I like to explain details so much that I decided a post on each one would be better. ¬†So be on the look-out over the next few weeks for my “Simple Changes” series! ¬†

The first change I’ve made is to exercise first thing in the morning after my family leaves for school and work. ¬†I know that this seems like an obvious time to choose exercise, but for me the choice has not always been so clear. ¬†Those first moments of the day are “prime real estate” for me in the context of time. ¬†My energy is up, my motivation is at it’s best, and anything that I assign to this spot is very likely to get done. ¬†As the day progresses, however, my energy starts to drop, I start getting pulled into various directions making it harder to focus on one task, and it can be difficult to stay internally motivated as well. ¬†The challenge for me has always been that there are so many things that practically beg to be placed in that prime spot of “first thing in the morning.” ¬†You may remember my efforts to do the dishes first a few months ago – that’s only one example, and I could easily think of at least 10 more.

But for now, exercise has won that spot Рand it has been great!  Here are the benefits:

1. ¬†It actually happens. ¬†One thing that I’ve noticed with many of my chores that “should” be done early, is that I will still get them done sometime even if I put them off a bit. ¬†For example, the kitchen — If I don’t clean the kitchen early, then eventually I will start running out of clean dishes to use and space to prepare food. ¬†The pressure of this will demand that I get the kitchen cleaned before too much time goes by. ¬†Maybe the kitchen isn’t as neat and clutter-free throughout the day as it could be, but days and weeks will not pass without it happening at all. ¬†Exercise, on the other hand is one thing that does not have such an immediate and stressful consequence if it doesn’t happen. ¬†If I put if off, then I can easily go days and weeks without doing it. ¬†So a big advantage to scheduling it first in the day is that I make sure that it happens.

2. ¬†I get to start my day with something I like to do. ¬†I actually enjoy exercising, which is why it’s so crazy that I haven’t been doing it consistently. ¬†After spending an hour packing lunches (which I don’t enjoy), and putting out fires (i.e. “Mom, I can’t find my library book!”), and otherwise making sure the kids are ready to catch the bus on time — it’s nice to do something that is not only productive, but enjoyable too.

Actually, the “exercise instructors” on my DVD’s say it much better than I can. ¬†For example, Chrissy Carter will say, “It’s hard to think about your ‘To Do’ list when you are balancing on one leg.” ¬†And Leslie Sansone will say, “Don’t worry about the dishes in the sink! ¬†You know what I always say, just ‘walk away’ from those dishes in the sink!” ¬†It makes me smile to hear things like this when I’m exercising, because they are both so right! ¬†It is a good thing to take a break from the demands of every day chores in order to take better care of my own health.

I’m glad to be exercising consistently again. ¬†It feels good to move, stretch, and to get stronger! ¬†Summer is quickly approaching, which means my family will be taking trips that will most likely require a fair amount of walking. ¬†I’ll certainly be glad then for the time I’m spending now!

When is your best time of day to exercise?